The Ladies' Tea Guild

Monday, December 2, 2013

We all like our figgy pudding!

Figgy pudding just out of the kettle.
Well, the pudding is out of the kettle and cooling on a rack now.  It looks like the waxed paper did its job of protecting the pudding from the rust on the inside of the mold, although it looked like the rust didn't come off on the paper anyways!  Interestingly, there is now more rust on the outside of the mold, in a line halfway down from the lid, where the water level was.  I'm not sure how to remove that.  There was also a metallic black residue that came off of the outside of the lid when I took the mold out of the kettle, but that has disappeared now that the mold isn't covered with steam.

Figgy pudding out of the mold. 
In any case, the pudding came out of the mold perfectly (of course it was surrounded with waxed paper) and hardly stuck to the waxed paper at all.  I let it boil for the full 4 hours called for by the recipe, and when I tested the pudding with a knife stuck in the center, there were no crumbs or batter stuck to the knife, and it felt firm yet moist.  It didn't rise at all, so I hope it's not too heavy!  It smells good, like figs and butter, but I can't smell the nutmeg at all.  I hope we'll be able to taste it.  I haven't decided whether or not to make a sauce to serve with it tomorrow night.  We'll see.

Even though, as the saying goes, "the proof of a pudding is in the eating," I'm calling this a success! 

Oh, bring us some figgy pudding!

vintage pudding mold.
Photo: Elizabeth Urbach
I finally got started on my baking last week, and hopefully I'll get it all done before I have to start giving baked goods away as Christmas presents!  Don't want to give out any I.O.U.s for cookies ...  Anyway, I got the two kinds of Italian cookies baked, as well as two apple pies (for Thanksgiving), and the first historic recipe of the season: figgy pudding!  I recently bought an antique pudding mold in one of the antique shops in Niles, and I've been wanting to use it ever since!  Unfortunately, there was a bit of rust on the inside, so I wasn't sure if I could boil a pudding in it and avoid getting rust residue on the pudding.  I had received a tip that apple cider vinegar would remove the rust and leave the metal food-safe, but when I scrubbed the rust with the vinegar it didn't seem to remove any of it.  Granted, I didn't let it soak more than a minute or so before scrubbing ... I ended up deciding to line the mold with waxed paper instead of just buttering it like the recipe said, to give a little more protection.  We'll see if that was enough when the pudding comes out of the steamer!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Christmas preparations.

Italian cuccidate.
Photo: Elizabeth Urbach
I'm gearing up for my annual holiday baking marathon.  I usually make one or two types of traditional Italian cookies, fruit cakes, and gingerbread to both serve and give away as gifts to family and friends, along with homemade jam.  I also like to make at least one historic recipe as well.  I've tried Mrs. Beeton's Seed Cake and Currant Cake with good results, but this year I think I'll try her Christmas Cake.  Here is the recipe:

Mrs. Beeton's Christmas Cake

Monday, October 21, 2013

Victorian experiments: salve for sore joints

_Victorian Farm_ book.  Photo:
Elizabeth Urbach
I've been noticing quite a bit of soreness and stiffness in various joints in my body -- especially my hands and my knees -- in the past few years, and since that's where the women in my family have gotten arthritis, I think that's what's beginning to happen with me.  It's not extreme yet, but it is really annoying, especially when the seasons change and the weather turns colder, so I've been looking for ways to minimize the discomfort.  Painkillers seem a bit much at this point, and being a historian, I've been looking online and through my books for ideas for healing and soothing salves.  Yet another great tidbit of information in my _Victorian Farm_ book, from the ever-interesting Ruth Goodman, is a recipe for making your own lip salve by melting lard, almond oil, and a few other things.  On the _Victorian Farm_ program Ruth makes a few other home remedies, so I decided to modify her lip salve recipe by using some of the other herbal information in the _Victorian Farm_ book and my other Victorian domestic manuals, to make an herbal salve to soothe my soreness.  Many sources say that comfrey is a good herb to include in healing salves, and there happens to be some growing in the herb garden at History Park in San Jose, where I work.  Between that garden, and my garden at home, and my mom's garden, I have access to several good culinary and medicinal herbs, and decided to add basil and a few drops of tea tree oil to the salve.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

New costume finished!

Trevelyan's Miscellany, 1602.
Well, it's finished *for now*, anyways!  My oldest nephew has been showing signs of an interest in history for the past few years, and has really gotten into Medieval, Renaissance, and WW2 history lately, exactly as my brother did when he was the same age.  Just as I did for my brother, I intend to encourage this interest in any way that I can.  I gave my brother a lot of history-related books and magazines when he was younger, and he's started passing them on to my nephew, so I have to take a slightly different tack!  This year my nephew turned 10, and asked my brother to take him to the local Renaissance Faire for his birthday.  My brother and I usually go together, and in costume (of course!).  I happened to overhear my brother agree to take my nephew to Faire, and I said "We usually go together, and we dress up, so if you're coming with us, I should make you a costume."  I expected my nephew to say "Well, I don't know ..." but he immediately said "YES!"  Good thing I hadn't bought him a birthday present yet: his costume would be his present from me!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

A Raspberry Bread Pudding and a Viennese Tea!

Raspberry Jam Bread Pudding.  Photo: Elizabeth Urbach
I've had these croissants taking up space in my freezer for a few months, and with all the fruit I've been bringing home from the farmers' market -- for making jam and freezing for next year -- I needed to get the croissants out.  Then they sat in my fridge for a month; they were wrapped in plastic, but still ...  Then, I got a bunch of raspberries at the farmers' market, intending to make jam with them, but a week went by and they were still there, looking at me sadly every time I opened the fridge!  After spending a lot of time looking through recipes for the perfect ones to use, I finally got the croissants and raspberries out the other day and did something with them!

Originally I was going to make bread pudding with the croissants -- I had been looking for a Victorian recipe (that I never did find) that called for grating the bread before adding the custard -- and jam with the raspberries, but as I was mixing the custard for the pudding, with the jam simmering in a saucepan nearby, I got a brain flash: why not put some of the jam *in* the bread pudding, and have a sort-of-raspberry-cream bread pudding?  I checked the fridge: no cream, but I did have some half-and-half.  Maybe white chocolate chips instead?  Checked the pantry: no white chocolate.  So, it will just be raspberry, or maybe Raspberry Jam-and-Bread Pudding ...

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Some warm-weather recipes from Godey's, 1854.

California beach, ca. 1905.  Wikimedia Commons.
 Despite the weather forecasts of rain and showers in the next few days, it's only been sunny and humid around here, warming up the house quickly and not cooling down until late in the afternoon.  Those of us in older houses with no air conditioning try to get by with doing as much as possible in the morning and evening when it's a bit cooler, but sometimes you have picnics or barbecues to go to, where you're expected to bring some of the food.  Who wants to heat up the house even more by cooking something?  Luckily, there are tons of ideas in Victorian cookbooks and women's magazines for dealing with warm weather; even if you have to bring a dessert somewhere, you're not limited to fruit salad or ice cream if you use a recipe like one of those below:

              "STONE CREAM.—Put in the dish you mean to send to table three spoonfuls of the lemon-juice with a little of the peel grated, to apricot jam; boil together a pint of cream, half an ounce of isinglass, and some sugar; when nearly cold, pour it on the sweetmeat.  A few macaroons at the bottom of the dish is an improvement.  To be made a few hours before using. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

_Wartime Farm_, the book!

_Wartime Farm_ by Peter Ginn, Ruth Goodman,
and Alex Langlands.  Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.
I may have mentioned my interest in the "Farm" history documentary series on the BBC, including "Tales from the Green Valley", "Victorian Farm," "Edwardian Farm" and "Wartime Farm" on this blog before ... my admiration of the featured historians and presenters knows no bounds!  I wish they would do a documentary here in the U.S. so I could work with them ... Anyway, there are companion books to each "Farm" series, and I recently won an autographed copy of the "Wartime Farm" book!

It's full, not only of an historical overview of what was going on in Britain between 1939 and 1950, but there are short chapters on many aspects of Home Front life in the country, with instructions for making and doing many of the things featured in the text and on camera in the documentary itself.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Rose, White & Blue Parade -- another fun way to spend the 4th of July!

The tea guild and GBACG members before the parade.  Photo: Laura Jimenez.
The South Bay Ladies' Tea Guild and the Greater Bay Area Costumers' Guild got together again to dress up and walk in San Jose's only 4th of July parade, the Rose, White & Blue Parade that travels through the historic Rose Garden neighborhood.  As with last year's parade, there was a lot of standing around and waiting -- even though we arrived at the staging area only 30 minutes before the parade was supposed to start (instead of 1 1/2 hours early as they suggested!).  We did have the opportunity to chat with some of the other parade participants, and had several people come up to us and ask to take pictures of and with us.  We were also approached by campaign workers to ask if we would be photographed holding various politicians' campaign posters, which we politely declined to do ...

the tea guild at GBACG members in the parade.  Photo: Laura Jimenez.
The parade route was lengthened this year, from 1.5 miles to 1.7 miles, and I don't know if we really noticed the difference because, just like last year, we all had sore feet by the end of the parade anyway!  The parade audience was great, though, and it is always fun to chat with them as we walk and wave.  We kept getting asked "How are your feet doing in those heels?" and "One lump or two?" (I was carrying our tea guild's banner).  The streets are so small that people can call out to you and you can hear and call back.  I wish we could have taken advantage of the glasses of cold beverages that were (somewhat jokingly) offered to us along the parade route, though!  On the way to a friend's house in the neighborhood (where we were invited to stop for some ice water and air conditioning) we started talking about next year's parade and how we should plan costumes that call for flat shoes!  So far, we've settled on Victorian and Edwardian bathing costumes (with ballet flats tied on with ribbons) and 1920s/1930s poolside and beach play suits and coverups (with espadrilles and sandals).  We'll see what we end up wearing when next year's parade rolls around!  

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Honeysuckle and the Bee

Orange honeysuckle, by Walter
Siegmund, Creative Commons 3.0
So many flowers are blooming, even in this unusual heat!

 I found a really cute Ragtime song called "The Honeysuckle and the Bee" from 1911 or so, on YouTube, that I think more people should hear.  Julie Andrews sang it in the 1970s, but the most historically-accurate modern rendition I've heard is this one, from Patricia Hammond:


Tuesday, July 2, 2013


"What dreadful hot weather we have!
It keeps me in a continual state of inelegance."
- Jane Austen 

July has arrived, and brought unusually high temperatures with it!  Parts of the garden are doing well -- the pumpkins and zucchini are sprawling all over their space -- but the tomatoes in the clay pots keep wilting if I don't water them every day.  Only one of my heads of lettuce is doing well, but I've already cut from it twice and it looks like it's about to go to seed.  It looks good for the cherry tomatoes and the other tomatoes in the ground, though and it looks like I'll get a good amount of basil, too.  Hopefully this next week of really high temperatures won't kill everything!

The tea guild is getting ready to walk in the Rose, White & Blue Parade through downtown San Jose on the 4th, so that should be fun.  It's the third year we've walked in the parade and we're glad to have been invited back!  We had a lot of fun waving to the crowd and being in the parade.  Here is one of the photos from last year:          
The parade starts at 10 a.m. and runs through the Rose Garden neighborhood in San Jose, so come out and see it!  We can always use some fans in the audience ...

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Back from the Alviso Adobe!

the front and side of the Alviso Adobe, built as a
one-storey home in the 1830s, expanded with a second floor
in the 1850s, a private residence until the 1980s.
Well, unfortunately some of the people who were going to meet at the Alviso Adobe in Milpitas couldn't make it at the last minute, but my friend and I had a nice afternoon and we almost had the park to ourselves. Here are some photos from the day:
me standing on the porch.
the back of the house from the garden.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The first picnic of the season!

our Victorian picnic at the Fallon House, 2012.
Photo: Elizabeth Urbach
My tea guild will be visiting a newly-opened historic park this weekend for a picnic!  The Alviso Adobe in Milpitas was built during the 1830s, expanded in the 1850s with a wooden second story, and was a residence until the 1980s.  Almost all of its surrounding land was sold away within the last few years and historians were worried that the house, now hidden within a housing tract, would remain unaccessible, or worse, be torn down by the landowner to make room for more condos.  Thankfully, the oldest building in the city of Milpitas was not only allowed to stand, but the acre or so of its remaining land was recently transformed into a small park, and the outside of the building was restored!  We are going to have a Victorian picnic there and see what the park is like; hopefully the inside of the building will be restored and opened to the public as Milpitas' first history museum.

The menu I'm planning will include some or all of the following:
Boiled eggs
Smoked salmon
Cucumber sandwiches
Jam sandwiches or bread-and-butter
Cheese and crackers
Fresh berries
Pound cake
Fruit turnovers
Iced tea

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Clockwork Alchemy comes to San Jose this weekend!


Clockwork Alchemy, the Steampunk convention associated with FanimeCon, has returned to San Jose’s DoubleTree Hotel for the second year.  Featuring dance, art, crafts, writing, music, fashion and food within the Steampunk aesthetic, because the genre is tied to Victoriana, tea will always be available whenever convention attendees want a cuppa.  Not only will the DoubleTree Hotel’s restaurant offer its usual hot tea on the menu, but the convention is setting up its own tea room, called The Alchemist’s Tea Parlour, where guests can get not only a nice hot cup of tea and a biscuit, but even have their fortunes read in their tea leaves.  The Tea Parlour will be open from Friday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the Riesling Room. 

Other occasions for tea include a writers’ gathering and reading, called “Tea and Trumpets”, on Friday from 1 to 2 p.m. in the Monterey room.  On Monday at 11 a.m., there will be an interesting class called “Stocking the Steampunk Pantry, Equipping a Steampunk Kitchen, & Setting a Steampunk Table” in the San Carlos Room.  The class will explore the relationship between the Industrial Revolution and agriculture in changing how people got the food they ate and what was available to various locations.  Class attendees will use this information to imagine the tools, gadgets, and ingredients appropriate to a Steampunk kitchen.   

Admission, or Membership, to Clockwork Alchemy costs $65 for the weekend (and includes free admission to FanimeCon, also in San Jose this weekend), but you can also buy a Membership for each day on its own.  Just go to the At-Con Registration line in the Bayshore room at the DoubleTree Hotel; Friday, the opening day, costs $35 to attend, Saturday and Sunday each cost $40, and Monday is $30 for a general admission Membership.  Children are welcome to attend with an adult, and have a discounted rate.

Steampunk costume is not required to attend, but if you've got a cool piece, why not wear it?  I think I can pull together something from my costume closet, although I will probably have to make a hat or headdress of some kind ... 

Copyright 2013, Elizabeth Urbach.

For more information:

“Steampunk” Wikipedia article
Steampunk tea dueling YouTube video

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Announcing _Tea Lands of China_ tonight on PBS

Victoria Boyert at Satori Tea Bar.
Photo: D3 Productions

The documentary Tea Lands of China follows Victoria Boyert, owner of San Jose's Satori Tea Bar, and Mark Rozell, a manager with Verve Coffee Roasters in Santa Cruz, on their journey to Hangzhou and Yunnan in China to learn about Longjing and Pu’erh teas.  Longjing, better known by its English name, Dragonwell, is a type of green tea, and pu’erh is an aged green tea that is pressed into discs and stored in caves to develop its characteristic earthy flavor and aroma.  Boyer and Rozell learned how to pick, process, and brew these teas, tasted food made with tea, and met the people who have cultivated and processed these teas for generations.

The one-hour long documentary will broadcast at 9 p.m. on Channel 200 in the South Bay, and PBS’s KRCB 22 in Sonoma County on Tuesday, May 7, and at 2 p.m. on KQED World on Saturday, May 11.  Keep your eyes on this blog for the results of a personal interview with Tori Boyert about her experiences!

Copyright 2013, Elizabeth Urbach

Like what you read?  Leave a comment below, click on “Subscribe” above, visit the San Jose Tea Examiner page on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter @SanJoseTea or Pinterest!

For more information:
“Tea Lands of China” documentary web page
“Tea Lands of China” on the KQED website
"Tea Lands of China" trailer on YouTube
“San Jose’s newest tea shop: Satori Tea Bar”

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Happy May!

May flowers, or pink hawthorn
blossoms.  Wikipedia image.
As I went out one May morning,
One May morning betim,
I met a maid from home had strayed,
Just as the sun did shine

What makes you rise so soon, my dear,
Your journey to pursue?
Your pretty little feet they tread so sweet,
Strike off the morning dew.

I'm going to feed my Father's flock,
His young and tender lambs,
That over hills and over dales
Lie waiting for their dams. 

May Queen and her court, British Columbia,
Canada, ca. 1887.  Wikipedia image.

O stay! O stay! you handsome maid,
And rest a moment here,
For there is none but you alone
That I do love so dear.

How gloriously the sun doth shine,
How pleasant is the air;
I'd rather rest on a true love's breast
Than any other where.

For I am thine and thou art rnine;
No man shall uncomfort thee.
We'll join our hands in wedded bands
And a-married we will be.

--"Searching for Lambs", traditional.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Back from the Cat Rescue Tea!

guest place setting.  Photo: Elizabeth Urbach
Photo: Elizabeth Urbach
Well, our 5th annual Cat Rescue tea fundraiser was another success!  We called it the "Downton Tabby" Tea this year, and got a lot of chuckles from the guests (in the photo to the left, the faces of the _Downton Abbey_ characters have been replaced with cat faces!).  We sold out both days, packing in 44 guests the first day and 42 the second day, and added champagne to the menu (for an extra charge) for the first time.  The champagne was more popular than we thought it would be, so it will probably be included again for next year.  Also for the first time, this year's menu was completely homemade; we replaced the packaged (even gourmet-quality) cake and cookies from Trader Joe's with homemade treats.  Although we didn't have the cute little kitty sugar cookies, we did have cat paw-shaped chocolates!  This year' menu was:

fig, bacon & cream cheese tea sandwich
(The Kittens' Favorite) egg salad tea sandwich
pear, bleu cheese & walnut tea sandwich
cucumber & herbed cream cheese tea sandwich
goat cheese & sun-dried tomato tea sandwich
curried chicken salad tea sandwich
olive tapenade on a cracker
currant scone with orange zest
Photo: Elizabeth Urbach 
Meyer lemon curd
soft butter
spiced plum, summer strawberry, or apricot jam
fresh grapes
nut cup
chocolate fudge

Photo: Elizabeth Urbach
Everyone got all of the above, as well as bottomless pots of tea, and two tea favors.  We served an Earl Grey Creme blend from local tea shop Satori Tea Company (as well as Peet's Earl Grey when we ran out of the Earl Grey Creme because it was so popular), and a spiced rooibos blend called The Cat's Pajamas from Thompson Tea Company.  All the tea was donated by the companies that sell it.  The tea favors this year were the aforementioned cat paw-shaped chocolates, and a blooming tea
Photo: Elizabeth Urbach 
from Thompson Tea Company called Cat Whiskers.  Everyone seemed to have a great time, as well as enjoying the beautiful surroundings of the Victorian house where the event was located, and the raffle and silent auction items.  I haven't seen the final tally yet, but I'm sure we raised a few thousand dollars for 13th Street Cat Rescue!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

It's that time again ...

Photo: Joanne Santner.
Time to get ready for the annual Cat Rescue Tea for 13th Street Cats!  This year I'm donating 2 tea baskets to the raffle and a bunch of things to the silent auction, I'm making all the lemon curd again, and I'll be making all the tea on both days of the event.  Tonight is the night to make the lemon curd!

I'm also on costume crew for Lyric Theatre's production of Lerner & Lowe's Brigadoon (go see the show!) this week, including both Saturday and Sunday evening after the tea fundraiser!  I'll have to hurry over to the Montgomery Theatre after finishing up at the house.  It will be a series of long nights ... 

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Friday, March 15, 2013

2nd Annual San Francisco International Tea Festival

Afternoon Tea Across America members meet up!
Photo: Elizabeth Urbach
Mr. Fong and Mr. Pratt opening the
2012 Festival.  Photo: Elizabeth Urbach

My friend and I went to the The San Francisco International Tea Festival at the Ferry Building Marketplace last Sunday.  A big highlight for me was meeting up with some of the members of the Afternoon Tea Across America e-mail group on Yahoo (see photo at left)!  We had a good time, and will probably go again next year.  The festival, open to tea lovers outside the professional tea trade, involved 16 tea vendors and various experts who offered samples of their tea and tea products, gave lectures and led tea tastings.  There were about 1,000 attendees, who received a small bag of promotional handouts, a few samples of tea, and an official tasting cup, at the festival entrance.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Mrs. Burnett's dress, part 2.

Harriet Burnett's dress,
ca. 1849
Photo: Elizabeth Urbach
Wow, I hadn't realized how long it's been since I last posted!  I've been keeping busy, though, with historical things.  Researching Harriet Burnett's governor's ball dress (see photo at left) has been really interesting.  Unfortunately, I couldn't find any period description of the dress at the ball in any of the contemporary newspapers, because San Jose didn't have its own newspaper until 1851 and the ball was in 1849.  The nearest local papers were out of Monterey and San Francisco, and relied on the mail bringing news from San Jose in order to publish the Legislative happenings.  Unfortunately, the winter of 1849 was so rainy and stormy that the roads were unusably muddy and no news could get out of or into San Jose!  It took until the end of January 1850 for the rain to let up and the roads dry out enough that the mail could get through to Monterey and San Francisco, so by that time any excitement about the ball had died down, and the papers recorded the inauguration of Governor Burnett, and mentioned, almost as an aside, "there was a ball in San Jose." 

There was no further description or mention of the event itself, although an interview with someone who was there, done many years later, and published in 1941, has the woman recalling that the ball was "the" event for the Bay Area for years afterwards.  I think the only place where I could find a fuller description of the ball, would be in the letters or journal of someone (a woman) who was there, but I don't know of any journals or letters from 1849 in San Jose that have been published, or are available to the public!  I think I'm at a dead end in verifying the provenance of the dress, so I've just made a record for it in the museum database, saying that the dress "is said to have been worn" at the Inauguration Ball.  I'll have to leave it at that for now.  It's been really fun reading all those old newspapers, though.  I found a website, the California Digital Newspaper Collection, that has scanned the papers into digital form and made them readable (you can enlarge the printing from the teeny-tiny original size!). 

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Dress commission, part 2

Well, my friend picked up her dress a few weeks ago, and while it's still not as fully trimmed as she (and I) would like, it looked great on her for her event.  To the left is a photo of the finished dress.  It's so dark that it's hard to see the trim details!  The main body of the dress is navy blue, and it's trimmed in black, with a rhinestone and black beaded clasp at the waist.  Pleated black satin ribbon topped with narrow black velvet ribbon trims the edge of the collar, sheer black flowers are placed in a line down the pleated and pointed satin panel on the front, which is also tipped with a black tassel, and 6 black braid-covered shank buttons follow the line of the skirt overlap, which is actually sewn closed underneath.  My friend also had some plain black velvet ribbon that will probably be used to edge the satin waistband and cuffs, but I really think that the dress needs more silver/rhinestone/bead accents to make it a little less dark!

The pattern also called for a neckline insert, but my friend forgot to bring the fabric for me to make it, so she ended up wearing the dress without the insert and it looked fine.  She was worried that the V-neckline would be too low without it but it wasn't, so that was a relief!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

A dress commission!

Hint of History's #101 pattern
with trim options
Occasionally, I make period costumes for people, and I'm working on a dress for a friend this week.  It's #101 Shawl Collar Dress from the 1910s Collection by Hint of History.  To the left is a picture of the pattern, with some trim options drawn in by a friend of mine.

photo: Elizabeth Urbach
I'm making the version in the bottom of the illustration; the original pattern is a one-piece wrap dress with shawl collar and modesty insert (not in the photo!), but I've added extra panels to the bottom of the bodice to make a shorter over-skirt and give the effect of a separate coat and skirt.  I've also added the long sash panel to the front, which will have a tassel at the end.  I'm just tweaking the fit of the sleeves and shoulders (so hard to fit!) and then I'll add the trim.  There's some  plain gray velvet ribbon, plain black velvet ribbon, black velvet ribbon edged with pleated black satin, and some 3-dimensional black tulle roses.  There is also a great black and silver rhinestone and bead clasp to close the jacket at the waist.  I think I'll put the black velvet with pleated trim around the collar, and a tulle rose on either side near the face.  The clasp will go at the high waist, and the hem of the coat will get the plain black velvet ribbon.  The hanging "sash" will have the tassel at the end point, as well as some of the tulle roses on it.  A photo of the almost-completed dress is on the right. It's a lot of navy blue!  It will be very dark, trimmed entirely in black, with only the white insert at the neckline to draw the attention to my friend's face.  But she picked the fabric and trim, and she likes dark colors, so I hope she'll like it! 

Friday, January 4, 2013

_Downton Abbey_, Season 3!

original ca. 1915 cotton dress
from my collection
Who's excited that Downton Abbey is being shown again?  ME!  I'll probably have to see it online like last season because not everyone in my household is a fan, and the television was often busy on Sunday evenings with non-Downton programming ... but I'll be at a friend's house this Sunday for a Downton marathon and tea, where we'll review Season 2 and then watch the first episode of Season 3 together, all while drinking tea and enjoying cake and a variety of tea savories.  So very civilized.  Apparently there will be some heart-wrenching scenes in this season, so I might have to get out one of my vintage lace-trimmed hankies ... 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Orange Jelly from 1852

Image from
Happy New Year!  I hope 2013 has been good to you so far.  In my research (see my last post from December 28th) I've been re-reading a lot of Gold Rush-era American newspapers and magazines (Google Books is my friend!) including Godey's Lady's Book. Because of letters to the editor from "California correspondents", we know that Californians were reading the Lady's Book during the Gold Rush, and probably followed the recipes printed in each issue.  Oranges will be coming into season in Northern California this month, so here is a ca. 1852 recipe from Godey's for a good midwinter dessert: Orange Jelly.

Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And, while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups
That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful evening in.
-- William Cowper (1731-1800)
"The Winter Evening" (Book Four), _The Task_ (1784)